There is a saying that you should never meet your heroes. The golden god may have feet of clay, and all that. I don’t agree.
Now, I adore my wife. Let me make that plain up front, so there are no misunderstandings. But there is another woman in my life – my goddess of writing, Tanith Lee.
Tanith Lee is the reason I’m a writer today. She inspired me in a way that nothing and no one else did or could. I’ve always hoped that if I worked hard enough and long enough I might one day be a tenth as good a writer as she was. I don’t know that I am, but I’m working on it. Drake is nothing like a Tanith Lee book, but I like to think that at the heart of it there is a little of her voice.
Tanith passed away last year and it my greatest professional regret that I never got to meet her and just tell her “thank you.” But then how many people get to meet their deity?
This Easter weekend though I did get to meet her husband, John Kaiine.
John is an absolutely lovely man and a gentleman in the truest sense of the word. We were at EasterCon in Manchester, UK, and John was there to speak on a panel held in tribute to Tanith. Hosted by Storm Constantine, the panel consisted of John and the Night’s Nieces – Kari Sperring, Sarah Singleton, Freda Warrington and Liz Williams, all writers who Tanith had inspired and mentored. John and the others spoke beautifully about Tanith and her work. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room by the end of the hour.
The incredibly addictive TVTropes.org website has this to say about the trope :
Merriam-Webster defines trope as a ‘figure of speech.’ For creative writer types, tropes are more about conveying a concept to the audience without needing to spell out all the details.
Wikipedia uses a lot more words to say basically the same thing.
It’s important to understand that this doesn’t make the trope a cliché, but rather a sort of shorthand for writers to convey an image or concept or character to the reader in as few words as possible.
The poor old trope had had a lot of bad press in recent years. A lot of people seem to want to deconstruct the little critter, or subvert it or discredit it. Basically people seem to want to hunt the trope to extinction, and I think that’s unfortunate.
Now I agree some members of the trope herd have got a bit long in the tooth and are probably due for culling. No one really needs to read another fantasy novel where a simple farmboy turns out to be the Chosen One / Long Lost Heir who is foretold by prophecy and destined to save the world, do they? No, so the “Farmboy” trope is probably due to meet the huntsman, and I think the “Damsel in Distress” has probably had her day too.
My first novel Drake has been described as a mix of Urban Fantasy and Noir, and I suppose it is, in a way. So what does that mean to me?
Well I think we all have an idea of what Urban Fantasy is – the king of the genre is obviously The Dresden Files, with the magical detective in a big modern city helping the cops solve the unsolvable, inexplicable paranormal crimes.
Drake’s not that.
Don Drake isn’t a detective, he’s a hitman. He doesn’t help the cops – hell, he doesn’t have anything to do with the cops if he can help it. Drake works for gangsters, and demons, and demon gangsters. He’s not Harry Dresden, not by a long way.
But he’s not Philip Marlowe or Mike Hammer either, for all that he’d like to be. The world Drake lives in is hard-boiled but he really isn’t. He’s a cynical, somewhat cowardly opportunist who does the best he can to make his way in a world he barely even understands.
A Noir world.
So what’s that? Noir needs to be dark, by definition, but I don’t think it has to be tied to any particular time period. The classic Hollywood Noir is set in LA or New York in the 1940s but it can work equally well in the backstreets of ancient Rome or the mean cantinas of Mos Eisley, or even in modern South London for that matter.